#Minivanlife
Motor Trend|August 2021
From the 1980s through the late ’90s, families and minivans went together like ketchup and French fries. That was certainly the case among my friends’ families, all of whom drove around Mexico City in white Ford Windstars. Our own green Windstar was easier to spot in our school’s pickup/ drop-off line, but its sliding door, spacious interior, and carlike ride were no less perfect for our usual carpool of six. Prior to that van, we had a red Windstar and a white Chrysler Voyager, but those ended up being stolen. See, we told you minivans were popular.
MIGUEL CORTINA

FOUR VANS ENTER, ONE VAN LEAVES

2021 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited AWD ..............$56,090

2021 Honda Odyssey Elite .....................................$49,390

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige .............................. $47,770

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Hybrid AWD .......$54,138

But the rise of two-box crossovers and SUVs led to the stigmatization of minivans as unfashionable mom-mobiles despite off-the-charts versatility and convenience. And just like that, these carefully packaged, thoughtfully designed vehicles were replaced by less practical and less adaptable three-row SUVs.

Today’s minivans go all out in terms of technology and features in an attempt to swing the pendulum back. To see which modern, luxury-leaning minivan reigns supreme, we gathered the entire segment in their fanciest trims, plus three dads (Dr. Bob Cho, chief of staff at Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena; MotorTrend head of editorial Ed Loh; and senior features editor Jonny Lieberman) and yours truly, a single 32-year-old with vast experience living with and driving such vehicles.

The Contenders

First up was a Chrysler Pacifica S Limited AWD with black wheels and badging. This Pacifica came loaded with Stow ’N Go second-row seats, dual rear screens, and the Stow ’N Vac onboard vacuum to keep things tidy. Its eye-watering price—$56,090—made it the most expensive of the group. (Today, the Voyager is Chrysler’s lower-priced model, but it’s simply a decontented Pacifica by another name.)

The Honda Odyssey Elite didn’t match some of the other vans’ wow features, but it’s a longtime top choice in the segment. One of its key tricks is CabinWatch, which displays a camera feed of the rear seats on the infotainment screen. At $49,390, the Odyssey included a vacuum and a rear entertainment package.

The all-new Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona and arrives specifically to challenge perceptions. Its boxy styling is mature and upscale—and, crucially, less vanlike—and in this SX Prestige spec, its interior feels more Mercedes than minivan. The standard second-row VIP recliners do a decent impression of first-class airplane seats, and its dual rear screens with Baby Shark branding (in Kids mode), a favorite with youngsters. The $47,770 price of the tip-top trim in our test gives it a serious leg up on value.

Finally, there’s the Sienna, which Toyota overhauled this year as a hybrid-only entry. It earns a 36-mpg highway EPA rating even with all-wheel drive, and the front seats flank a practical center console. Our example was a Limited model with a $54,138 price tag.

Comfort, Entertainment and More

Besides the usual apps, the Carnival’s rear-seat entertainment system feels as up-to-date as the streaming stick in your house, offering Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch options, plus wireless device mirroring for Apple and Android devices. We also like the handy power seat controls on the front passenger seat back, which make more room in a pinch. It lacks some of the clever storage solutions found on the other vans—its center console doesn’t transform or fit, say, a purse—but its plentiful cubbies and cupholders are all right where you expect them to be.

The Pacifica’s optional rear screens come with a Blu-ray player and have handy, easily accessible USB and HDMI ports. Even so, we’d skip the $2,495 package and put that money toward an in-vehicle Wi-Fi subscription and a couple of tablets. For those with the latest personal electronics, the Pacifica offers USB-C outlets, as does the Sienna.

The Honda and Toyota have just one rear screen each, potentially problematic for multi kid families, despite split-screen capabilities. The Odyssey’s has a couple of built-in games, but the Sienna’s only plays media connected via HDMI.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine